Now, shopaholics get to recharge their mobile phones for free

Nikhil Agarwal

Mumbai, Jan 16 (PTI) Being a shopaholic may notnecessarily lighten the wallet as various new schemes in theIndian market are providing exclusive free recharging optionsto shoppers.

One of the country''s largest retailers, Future Groupis offering free mobile phone talktime to its customers of BigBazaar and Pantaloons while another start-up portal is givingaway free retail coupons equal to the value of recharge donethrough their website.

Within few months of its launch, the uniqueconvergence of retail and mobile telephone services, two ofthe businesses which have witnessed a boom in India, iscatching up fast among the youth in the metros and the largercities.

The T24 GSM mobile service, launched by the Futuregroup in association with Tata Teleservices in June, now hasaround 350,000 subscribers in Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal,Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Besides the traditional ways of buying a recharge, onecan simply shop at the company''s retail chains like BigBazaar, Food Bazaar, Pantaloons, EZone, Central, Home Town andBrand Factory to get free talktime.

For example, a shopping bill of more than Rs 1000 atBig Bazaar gives a free talktime of Rs 35.

"My ever-increasing shopping bill is now helping mereduce my mobile phone bill," says Meenakshi Naidu, aHyderabad-based young housewife who bought a T24 mobileconnection late last year.

Moreover, under the ''Talk More, Shop More'' scheme, onecan even get discounts on goods bought from Future Groupstores after buying a mobile phone recharge.

"Shopping and talking on our mobile phones are amongthe two favorite activities for all of us in India. With T24,we have been able to develop a unique customer valueproposition that combines these interests of the aspirationalIndians," says Future Group''s CEO (Telecom), Mayur Toshniwal.

On the other hand, at, around 1.5lakh netizens log in to recharge virtually for free from thewebsite as their talktime charges are refunded in the form offree coupons from retailers and hang-out joints likeMcDonalds, Barista and PVR Cinemas. .

"Besides talking to my girlfriend for longer duration, I can also take her out to a multiplex on weekends with thefree coupons I get on recharging my phone. It serves me dualpurpose as recharging is easier on the Internet and is alsoavailable 24x7," says 22-year-old college student RockyAgarwal.

Launched in August last year, the first-of-its-kindbusiness model has already acquired a patent pending status.

"The response has been overwhelming for us as ourmodel is a win-win situation for mobile operators, retailersand users. With a spurt in the growth of the number of mobileand e-commerce subscribers in India, the online prepaidrecharge market will also grow," the website''s founder KunalShah told PTI.

Already having the leading mobile phone operators,retailers and hang-out joints on board, they are now settingup long-term partnerships with restaurants, apparel and evengrocery store chains.

"By the end of this April, we are hoping to have25,000 transactions each day on our website," Saha said addingthat they expect to start making profits by next year.

Similarly, Future Group plans a pan-India rollout ofits T24 mobile services and taking its customer base to onemillion.

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